How much will I be able to see with a telescope?

I’m thinking of buying a used Meade ETX-125 from a friend. For those who don’t know, this is a 125mm Maksutov-Cassegrain reflector. It also has the Meade Autostar system, which will automatically point the scope at whatever celestial object you specify.

I’ve always wanted to get into astronomy, and this seems like good way to do it. It’s portable, so I can easily take it in my car between home (Connecticut) and school (Boston), and away from the bright lights of the city in evenings when I want to go observing. And the Autostar system means it will be easier to jump right in and not bother with learning star charts and the like.

I’ve used other people’s telescopes before, but they’ve just been little refractors. What I’m wondering is just how much I’ll actually be able to see through this if I buy it. I know I won’t see Hubble-class deep-space images with bright, vibrant colors, but I don’t want to buy it only to find that I can only look at the moon, Mars, Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter, and that everything else is just a gray, fuzzy little dot.

Also, considering that I’m basically paying for the Meade’s small size and portability, do you think that it’s a good deal for a starter instrument? I’m not really concerned about how much money I spend - if I like astronomy then it will be well spent, and if I don’t I can just sell it on eBay and come out almost even. However, I want to buy something that will last me a long time if I decide to stick with it - does the Meade fit that bill?

If not, is it possible to get larger reflectors (6" or 8") on equatorial mounts that are still portable enough to easily transport in a car? I’ll never be able to use the telescope at home or at school because of heavy tree cover (at home) and light pollution (at school), so I’ll always have to drive for at least a half-hour to observe anything. That’s not a problem, because I love driving, but my car’s suspension is rather…sporty. I remember reading somewhere that larger reflectors don’t take too well to bumpy rides - is that true?

It’s a good deal.

You’ll be able to see a lot. With an instrument that small I’m not sure planets are your best shot, but you’ll get nice views of nebulae, clusters, and various galaxies. Bear in mind that such objects are often BIGGER, in terms of angular size, than the planets. You don’t notice them with the naked eye because they’re so dim, not because they’re too small. But the big hitters can revealk some nice detail; I’ve spent entire evenings looking at the Orion nebula.

I guess it depends on the price you’re being offered, but it seems to me to be a low-risk way of seeing if you’re interested in astronomy. Just remember that no matter what instrument you buy, it will take some practice and some patience.

I’m so glad you asked this! I’ll be in the market for a Mak-Cass in the next few months, but probably a bit smaller than the one you’re looking at.

I’ve checked out the 6, 8, and 10 inch Dobs at a local telescope store, and they seem a bit bulky to be hauling around a lot, especially the 8 & 10 inchers. I have seen them on equatorial mounts but they’re rather pricey. But if you’re interested in deep space objects, I think a Dob would be better than a Mak-Cass. I’m not an expert, though.–just an amateur who’s read every issue of Astronomy for the last year, trying to decide what to buy :smiley:

Yup, you’ll be able to see a lot with that ETX. We had one of those for a while; it’s pretty neat.

Keep in mind that with a Mak-Cass you’re going to have a fair bit of cooldown time if it’s at all cold out. Figure at least 30 min for the optics to regulate to the outside temperature for decent viewing. All them mirrors take a while to regulate.

Still, price-wise, you’re going to get WAY more bang for the buck if you get a Dob. An 8" Dob is going to show you a lot more than the ETX will. Not that the ETX isn’t a good beginner scope - it is. I’d put my money on you trading up within a few years, though, if you really get into astronomy. An 8" or 10" Dob tends to last people longer.

Portability wise, they’re not all that different. With an ETX, you still have to haul around a tripod, so you end up carrying the main telescope and mount, and the tripod. Most Dobs break down into a series of struts and a couple of boxes containing the mirror and the other bits. So you end up with only a little more stuff with the Dob.

Autostar is useful, but you still have to figure out two stars in order to align it so it’s not completely stupid-proof. Once again, if you get into astronomy at all, you’ll quickly find that you can find things in the sky without the autostar. It’s a nice feature, but by no means required.